Last year, straight couple Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan said that they were going to get civilly partnered rather than married "in order to push for full marriage equality."
But after facing difficulty achieving this, the couple took their fight for equality even further this month: They have launched a legal challenge against the ban on heterosexual couples entering into civil partnerships.
Speaking on the petition site Change.org, the couple explained why the option should be available to couples like them.
The option of a civil partnership is not open to us, nor to thousands of other long-term cohabiting couples. Why? Just because we are of different genders. When we sought to give "notice of intention" to form a civil partnership at Chelsea Old Town Hall on 1st October, we were refused by the Registrars and told to leave the premises. The reason for this humiliating experience: The Civil Partnership Act 2004 stipulates that only same-sex couples can enter into civil partnerships. Now, same-sex couples can choose whether to have a civil partnership or marriage. However, as the law stands, opposite-sex couples cannot choose between civil partnership and marriage. This means that rights and privileges are extended to one group of people whilst being denied to others. Legalising same-sex marriage was the recognition that LGBTQI people are of equal worth and have the right to equal treatment under the law. We campaigned for such recognition and rights for same-sex couples, and we believe the same principle of equality applies to all couples regardless of sexual orientation.
It is believed that the couple, who are expecting their first child next year, are the first to take the issue to British court.
Steinfeld and Keidan – who are both academics – told The Guardian how they tried to hold the ceremony in October, but were refused. "The registrar was very sympathetic but confirmed we were of the opposite sex and said consequently she could not provide a civil partnership," Steinfeld said. "I asked if she would consider an act of civil disobedience. She said: 'It's not worth my job.'"
The couple also said that there is public support for their cause.
"We know there is a clear public mandate for opening civil partnerships to all," they wrote on their petition page. They reference the government's consultation in 2012 found that 78,556 people (61% of respondent) supported the extension of civil partnerships to opposite-sex couples.
Two years later, the government has yet to make any changes to the law.
They added: "This seems wrong to us. We want it to change. So we are calling on the Equalities Minister, Nicky Morgan, to open civil partnerships to all, regardless of sexual orientation."
They are now asking people to donate to their legal costs to fight for "civil partnerships for all."
Rossalyn Warren is a senior reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Rossalyn Warren at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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